Category Archives: Scooter

Barrio Queen

My last post described shopping for a new trailer and getting ready to sell the old one. There were a few comments about moving up in trailer size and how that dovetails with a more minimalist lifestyle. Well, here’s my reasoning – we aren’t getting a larger trailer so we can collect and haul more stuff.

Our 6 x 12 Loadrunner trailer has been packed to the gills for some time. It is, after all, my rolling garage. Things were packed so tightly that our scooter suffered cosmetic damage from things moving and rubbing against it. I don’t want that to happen to our Spyder – which has a larger footprint than the scooter. I also don’t want to damage the Spyder loading and unloading with so little clearance for the front wheels.

With the trailer packed, I had tools and spare parts in plastic bins stacked on top of each other. This made accessing parts a chore. I would have to partially unload the trailer and move bins to find what I needed. Even getting my tool chest open could be difficult at times as I had supplies stacked on it.

The new trailer is large. It’s nominally 8.5 x 20 feet. The interior length actually measures 20′ 5″ and the overall length is 24′ 8″. Hooked up to our motorhome we’ll be at the maximum length of 65 feet in many states including California, where we spend a lot of time.

On Friday afternoon, I unloaded our old trailer and cleaned the interior. I piled everything at the rear of our site. I locked the bikes back inside the trailer overnight. With the Traeger out of the trailer, I put it to good use and grilled bone-in chicken thighs dry rubbed with Sweet Rub O’mine. Donna served it with a baked potato and lemony green beans.

Dry rubbed chicken thighs, baked potato and lemony green beans

Dry rubbed chicken thighs, baked potato and lemony green beans

On Saturday morning, our friend Howard Graff showed up with his Ford F150 truck. We hooked up the old trailer and moved it to a lot on the north side of the RV park where I had secured permission to temporarily store it. Then we headed out to TrailersPlus to pick up the new trailer. We had a few different mounts for the receiver and a larger ball. The old trailer used a 2″ ball, the new one requires a 2-5/16″ ball. It took us over an hour to get through the paperwork and get the mount set up with the right amount of drop, and then we were on our way.

Howard drove the trailer back to Towerpoint RV Resort and we had no issues. I backed the trailer into our site – it was a tight turn and a bit of a squeeze to get the 8.5 foot wide trailer in place. Thanks for the help, Howard!

As always with a new trailer, my first order of business is to sweep the floor and put a coat of paint on it. The 3/4″ plywood floor is undercoated on the bottom side but bare on top. I like to seal the wood with good paint to prevent any liquids that may be spilled on the floor from penetrating and damaging the floor.

I thought the task would take me two hours – one hour of prep and about an hour to paint. I had the floor clean and masked with painter’s tape in about 45 minutes. I get better at the masking job every time I do this.

Trailer prepped for paint

Trailer prepped for paint

Entry step masked and ready for paint

Entry step masked and ready for paint

I opened a gallon of Glidden Porch and Floor paint and found a problem. When I bought the paint at Walmart a couple of days ago, I pulled a can off the shelf. It had a smear of gray paint on the side of the can – just what I was looking for. But there was also some paint around the lid making me think someone had returned this can and it might not be full. Their paint counter wasn’t manned by a store employee, so I grabbed the next can behind the one that had been opened. I paid for it and took it home without another thought.

When I opened the can of paint, it was a vile-looking yellowish liquid. I read the label closely and saw that it was a base coat that needed to have pigments added for color. I took the paint back to Walmart and after waiting for half an hour to get someone who could help me, I had the paint mixed to a color called granite gray. Using a base coat without pigment doesn’t work – it covers with a mostly clear, streak-filled finish.

By the time I got back at it, I’d lost about an hour. I set to work painting with a brush first to cover all of the corners and around the tie-downs and other metal work. Then I took a roller to cover the rest of the floor. It took me about 75 minutes and I was whipped by the time I was done. I should have bought a long handled roller – the short roller I had meant I was bending over to reach the floor the whole time. The job came out nice though and I finished cleaning up around 5pm.

Floor covered with Glidden Porch and Floor paint

Floor covered with Glidden Porch and Floor paint

You can clearly see the slope of the rear floor beavertail section

You can clearly see the slope of the rear floor beaver tail section

The rear floor section of the car carrier trailer is what they call a beaver tail. It slopes down at the rear making it match the angle of the ramp and lowering the loading height. I’ll add a couple of tie-downs and this is where the Spyder will ride. I’ll have several weeks to plan and organize the front section to store my tools, spare parts and whatnot.

At 6:30pm, Howard and his wife Sara came by and picked us up. We went to Old Town Gilbert to the Barrio Queen restaurant. This is a popular and acclaimed Mexican restaurant that’s been featured in national media. They also have a huge selection of tequila (tequila menu here) and make a variety of margaritas.

We enjoyed the Skinny Chola margaritas at the bar while we waited for a table. Then we were seated outside on the patio. First up, we had fresh guacamole made at our table. The waiter blends the ingredients which, in this case, included pomegranate seeds.

Our waiter, Carlos, making guacamole

Our waiter, Carlos, making guacamole

A tasty guacamole with pomeganate

A tasty guacamole with pomegranate

The food was outstanding and the service great. It’s well worth the wait for a table. We enjoyed the ambience and conversation and before we knew it, it was 9pm. Howard and Sara dropped us off at home – of course, they had to stop in to say hi to Ozark the cat. It was a lovely way to spend the evening as I lamented my sore back from painting.

Today I’ll begin to loosely arrange some of our stuff in the trailer. The weather is nice but likely to be on the hot side this afternoon. The forecast calls for a high of 87 with sunny skies and more of the same tomorrow. I think I’ll relax and read a book.

 

Along Came a Spyder

In my last post, I wrote about us wanting to move on from the scooter. Our Kymco Downtown 300i scooter has served us well for nearly three years. It limits our mobility though. It was great for running to the store or going to the beach as long as we didn’t have to travel much more than 10 miles each way. Longer rides became uncomfortable. Also, even though it could cruise easily at 60 mph, high-speed riding wasn’t its forte. So we avoided fast highways and interstates.

We started seriously thinking about replacing it with something that we could easily trailer behind our coach. We aren’t ready to give up the trailer. It’s my rolling garage where I keep my tools, our bicycles and kayak along with a few bins filled with spare parts and whatnot.

After seeing a number of Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) licensed for the street here in Arizona, we thought that might be a viable option. We liked the look of the Reeper I wrote about in my last post. It seemed to be more suited for street use than most UTVs and was also capable of playing in the desert. After test driving one, two things became apparent. It wasn’t very exciting to drive. In fact, it was under-powered and a little squirrelly. Also, Donna realized she doesn’t like off-roading – it scared her.

On Tuesday, I went to another dealer to look at Polaris UTVs. I thought I should look past the Reeper and see if I couldn’t find something that drove better. Maybe Donna could learn to like off-roading too. The Polaris and Arctic Cat dealer here in Lake Havasu City is AZ West. They had a large inventory of vehicles including the Polaris Slingshot. This is a wild, side-by-side two-seat tricycle made for street driving, not off-roading. I nixed that idea though – too expensive, too big and not practical for our needs.

In the showroom, I was asked several times if I needed help finding anything. I said I was just browsing and went outside to have a look around. I saw something that caught my eye. It was another tricycle type vehicle, but it was laid out more like a motorcycle. It was a Can Am Spyder they had taken in on trade. When I went back into the showroom, I was asked if I found what I was looking for. I said, “No, but I found something that I wasn’t looking for and I’m interested.” I found out the Spyder had a trunk for storage in the front and was reasonably priced.

I came home and did some research on Spyder prices. Then I told Donna I wanted to test drive it and she should come along. We went back to AZ West and arranged a test drive. I was in for a surprise. After 45 years of riding motorcycles I thought I knew what I was getting into. I’ve never ridden a vehicle with this layout before though. We put on our helmets and Donna hopped on back. We were to follow one of the employees on a loop that took us past the rodeo grounds on back roads, then blast down highway AZ95 back to the dealership.

I barely made it out of the parking lot. This thing felt so awkward, I was fighting it. The thing is, with your butt in the saddle, feet on foot pegs and hands gripping the handle bars with the throttle on the right grip, it seems like riding a motorcycle. But it isn’t. It’s more like a small sports car, but it isn’t quite like a car either. It’s neither fish nor fowl – it’s something unique.

This Spyder Roadster was the SE5 model with a semi-automatic transmission. It idles at about 1,400 rpm. Twist the throttle and at 1,800 rpm, the centrifugal clutch begins to engage and is fully locked up by 3,000 rpm. The engine is a powerful Rotax 998cc V-twin – the same engine that powered the Aprillia 1000R and Mille superbikes. In the superbikes, it was tuned to produce over 140 hp. In the Spyder, it’s de-tuned to 106 hp making it more tractable with a broad powerband. The acceleration is snappy – it will go from 0 to 60 mph in just over 4 seconds. By the left grip is a paddle shifter. A flick of the paddle with your thumb shifts up to the next higher gear. Pulling the paddle back with your index finger downshifts to the next lower gear. It automatically cuts power to upshift and blips the throttle to match rpms with road speed when you downshift. The gearshifts are quick – 200 milliseconds (0.2 seconds). It has a reverse gear and also has ABS brakes, traction control and electronic stabilization. It’s a sophisticated vehicle.

But in my mind, I was riding a motorcycle. As we rode through curves, I leaned into the turn and the Spyder didn’t. In fact, it rolled to outside of the turn, completely counter to what I was used to feeling on a motorcycle. Instead of swooping smoothly through the turns like I can on a motorcycle, I was choppy and fighting my way through.

I can get a motorcycle through the turns

I can get a motorcycle through the turns

After a while it began to make sense. The front suspension was acting like a car. As I went through a turn instead of leaning into the turn as a motorcycle would, centrifugal force was rolling the vehicle toward the outside of the turn and compressing the front suspension on the outer wheel. Once I understood this, I got over the out-of-control feeling and started driving smoother. That’s right, driving – not riding. It’s more like a car than a motorcycle.

Donna didn’t enjoy the test drive. She could tell I was having issues and felt like I was struggling for control. I was at first. She thought if I was having such a hard time, she would never be able to ride this machine. After the test drive we told Jack, the salesman, that we would have to think it over. We came home and I explained to Donna what was happening. I felt confident that I had it figured out and would get over trying to ride it like a motorcycle. I also felt confident that she could learn to ride it easily enough.

We did some more online research and slept on it. On Wednesday morning, I went back to AZ West and struck a deal. I traded in the scooter and left with the Spyder. Donna and I took a drive down to Parker Dam on the Spyder. She could see that I had indeed adjusted my style and could drive it competently. The drive was 20 miles each way and we took AZ95 at 65-70mph the whole way. It was a nice ride.

Donna and the Can AM Spyder at a scenic overlook

Donna and our Can AM Spyder at a scenic overlook

Another view of the Spyder

Another view of the Spyder

View from overlook

View from overlook

We rode over the dam and parked. We walked around and took in the views of the Colorado River.

Parker Dam

Parker Dam

Colorado River behind the dam

Colorado River behind the dam

View from the west end of the dam

View from the west end of the dam

I cancelled the policy on the scooter and insured the Spyder. Our premium increased by only $56 annually. It’ll be a tight squeeze to shoehorn the Spyder into our trailer. When we get to Mesa, I plan to get a bigger trailer.

The Alpine Coach rally officially opens this evening. We have 25 Alpines registered along with a few hundred other RVs at the rodeo grounds. The pyrotechnic display begins tonight. The weather is nice – clear, sunny skies with the temperature reaching the low 80s. Humidity is under 20%. I’ll write more about the Winter Blast Western Pyrotechnic Association show in another post.

Reeper Test Drive

Sunday was Superbowl Sunday. Most of the day was like any other day. The weather was warm but windy. Donna and I rode the scooter up to The Shops at Lake Havasu Mall to take another look at the Reeper utility task vehicle (UTV) I wrote about in my last post. I had done some research and found the Reeper to be one of the most suitable UTVs for street use. I also confirmed it can be licensed and street legal in our domicile state of South Dakota. When we arrived at the mall, the parking lot was empty. The three-day expo was Thursday-Friday-Saturday, not Friday-Saturday-Sunday as I thought.

Donna did a little sleuth work and after a couple of phone calls, was able to track down the guy selling his Reeper. She made arrangements for us to take another look Monday afternoon.

I treated the sidewalls of our tires with 303 Aerospace protectant. I really like this product. It’s easy to use and blocks UV rays from deteriorating the rubber sidewalls. I usually apply it every couple of months.

As the time drew near for the Superbowl, Donna prepared a snack tray. They were mostly healthy snacks – she made fresh fries by cutting jicama to dip in her homemade guacamole, plus cut up celery and carrots. She also roasted garbanzo beans and prepared asparagus spears wrapped with boursin cheese and prosciutto.

Snack tray

Snack tray

The Superbowl opened with Lady Gaga singing the national anthem. I’m not a fan of hers but I thought she did a wonderful job. The game turned out to be very entertaining with strong defensive performances by both teams. At halftime, I opened a bottle of IPA and did my best to ignore the show.

Trestles IPA from Left Coast Brewing

Trestles IPA from Left Coast Brewing

Donna made adobo-seasoned baked chicken wings which was basically our dinner as we snacked through the second half of the game.

Adobo seasoned baked chicken wings

Adobo-seasoned baked chicken wings

I was happy to see Peyton Manning take home the trophy.

Monday was a move day. I spent the morning loading the scooter and grill and making the trailer ready for travel. We were only going about 10 miles to the rodeo grounds on the south side of Lake Havasu City, but everything needs to be secure regardless of the distance we travel. Donna went out for a three-mile run as I was loading.

I filled our fresh water tank and dumped and flushed our holding tanks. We’ll be dry camped for the next week so we want to have all the water we can hold on board and full holding tank capacity. The rodeo grounds open for dry camping the week of the Winter Blast Western Pyrotechnic Show. We’re here with the Alpine Coach Association group. We were pre-registered so checking in was quick and painless. We were escorted to site D5 – basically chalk lines drawn in the dirt lot. We were too long with the trailer to fit in the space allotted, so I had to drop the trailer and park beside it. The site slopes from the driver to passenger side but I was able to get the coach level with the HWH hydraulic jacks.

Rodeo grounds site

Rodeo grounds site

After we were set up and ate lunch, we rode the scooter over to Arizona Motors, about a mile away from here. That’s where the Reeper was. We talked to Doug – he works there and is selling his Reeper. After a while, Doug and I went for a test drive. The UTV wasn’t as powerful as I expected – it accelerated much slower than I thought it would. Then I took Donna for a ride in the side-by-side two seater. She was not prepared for the noise and amount of wind. It has a full windshield – and windshield wipers – but no side or rear windows.

We thanked Doug for his time and test drive but also said we weren’t sure if it’s the right thing for us. We’re still on the fence.

When we came back to the rodeo grounds there were seven or eight Alpine Coaches here. I expect more to arrive soon. I grilled bacon wrapped filet mignon for dinner. Donna served it with spicy chipotle sweet potato fries with parsley mayo for dipping and steamed asparagus.

Bacon wrapped filet, spicy chipotle sweet potato fries with dipping sauce and asparagus

Bacon wrapped filet, spicy chipotle sweet potato fries with dipping sauce and asparagus

I paired it with pale oat ale from Lagunitas Brewing – a great beer.

Equinox oatmeal pale ale

Equinox pale oat ale

We finished the day watching a couple of TV shows. It’s very quiet out here so far. It won’t be once the fireworks start on Thursday. The forecast calls for temperatures to reach the 80s all week. We’ll be putting some hours on the generator.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Blue-Green Water

The weather was much improved yesterday. We took advantage of it by hiking along Lake Havasu at Mesquite Bay. There are parking areas on both the north and south sides of the bay off London Bridge Road. We rode the scooter to the paved lot on the north side of the bay.

There are a few different trails beginning at the end of the lot. One is a short dirt trail for non-motorized boat access to the water. Another trail is paved and leads to a fishing pier on the water. We took this path first. Along the way, there are several informational signs describing the flora and fauna. One sign said the name Havasu is from the native America Yuman language spoken by the Havasupai people and means blue-green water. I’ve read conflicting information online about the tribe, language and translation of Havasu.

The water in Lake Havasu actually is blue-green. It’s hard to capture in photos. In yesterday’s post, the photo of London Bridge definitely shows a green cast to the water. At Mesquite Bay, the light refracted in the clear water and had areas of blue and green.

Cove in Mesquite Bay

Cove in Mesquite Bay

We left the paved path and hiked around the hilltop that forms a point in the bay. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife – just a few song birds and waterfowl. The trails are short loops and we didn’t hike very far.

We rode the scooter from there into town for lunch at Bad Miguel’s – a Mexican restaurant that was recommended to us. The place is popular but we were able to snag a table. The food was good and the portions generous. There was a poster on the door for an RV Super Show this weekend. I had seen one of these posters when we arrived at Lake Havasu City but forgot about it.

The show was at The Shops at Lake Havasu – a shopping mall on AZ95 north of the Lake Havasu Falls RV resort – about five miles away from Bad Miguel’s. We blasted up AZ95 on the scooter to check out the show. It turned out to be not so super. It was a local dealer displaying everything from utility vehicles to fifth-wheel trailers and boats. No motorhomes and no manufacturer displays.

We walked through a couple of fifth-wheel trailers then we found a Polaris street legal utility vehicle.

Donna looking good in a Polaris Ranger

Donna looking good in a Polaris Ranger

We wandered over to another area and found Oreion Reeper street legal utility vehicles. These things are pretty cool – lightweight, but capable of cruising at 55mph and can go off-road. We started thinking one of these might be a viable alternative to the scooter. Weather would be less of a factor and I wouldn’t be so hesitant to ride after dark. It would be easy to fit in a trailer at only 64 inches wide and 124 inches long. I might go back for a second look.

While yesterday’s temperature reached the low 70s, today’s forecast calls for upper 70s. It will be just the two of us here watching the Superbowl tonight. Tomorrow we’ll pack up and move to the rodeo grounds where we’ll be dry-camped for a week with the Alpine Coach Association group.

London Bridge

After spending days indoors writing various articles and reviewing one of her books for an upcoming reprint, Donna decided it was time for a break. The weather was much nicer Friday with an afternoon high of about 70 degrees.

We rode the scooter to town. Donna got a tip for a good place to stop for lunch at the Barley Brothers Brewery and Restaurant by the London Bridge. There’s quite a story behind the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. In 1958, Robert McCulloch bought 3,353 acres of land along the east side of Lake Havasu at Pittsburgh Point. This is the same Robert McCulloch that was the CEO of McCulloch chainsaws and also the creator of the community of Fountain Hills, Arizona – I wrote about that in this post.

This area of arid desert land wasn’t very useful at the time. It was a long way from any major cities and didn’t attract visitors. About the only thing here was an old Army Air Corps field and runway. The federal government deeded the 13,000 acres of land around the airfield to the state of Arizona. The state in turn deeded the land – reportedly free – to Robert McCulloch for his promise to develop the area.

McCulloch needed a way to attract attention and bring people out to this desert on the Colorado River bordering Arizona and California. His real estate agent, Robert Plumer, heard about an old bridge in London that was for sale. The bridge originally spanned the River Thames and was built in the 1830s. It could no longer support modern traffic and had to be replaced. Plumer convinced McCulloch to buy the bridge and transport it to Lake Havasu.

What he actually bought was the exterior facing stonework of the original bridge. A new reinforced concrete bridge was built in the same shape as the original. The original stonework was carefully removed and numbered from the old bridge. It was transported via ship to Houston and ground transport to the desert. Reconstruction began in 1968. The granite facing was clad to the exterior of the new bridge in the desert. At the time, the bridge didn’t span a body of water. It was erected over a wash leading out to the Pittsburgh Point peninsula. Once the bridge was competed in 1971, the wash was dredged and filled with water creating an island on one end of the bridge. The bridge was a successful lure and brought people to Lake Havasu where real estate agents started selling property. Today the population is estimated to be over 53,000.

London bridge under construction in 1971

London Bridge under construction in 1971 – file photo

Aerial view of the bridge from 2011 - file photo

Aerial view of the bridge from 2011 – file photo

Instead of blasting down AZ95 on the scooter, we took a more scenic route down London Bridge Road (map). The thing is, London Bridge Road doesn’t take you directly over the bridge. You have to cross back over AZ95 in town to get to McCulloch Boulevard North which is the road that crosses the bridge.

Once across the bridge, the first building on the right is the Island Mall. It houses a few boutique stores, Shugrue’s Restaurant and Barley Brothers Brewery. We parked and walked down to the waterside at the bridge. It’s beautifully landscaped with nice walking paths. There are boat docks and boat tour tickets can be purchased for a tour of the lake.

London bridge view from waterside path

London Bridge view from waterside path

Tour boat unloading passengers

Tour boat unloading passengers

The tour boat we saw had an interesting hull. If you click on the picture above to enlarge it, you’ll see what appears to be a flat bottom under the familiar shape of the bow.

After taking a short walk along the waterside, we went up to the Barley Brothers Brewery and Restaurant. Donna and I ordered glasses of oatmeal stout – Donna had a pint and I had the large 23 ounce pour.

Donna at the Barley Brothers Brewery with stout

Donna at the Barley Brothers Brewery with oatmeal stout

The beer was good but I thought it had a lingering bitterness that I don’t expect from oatmeal stout. Donna ordered a plate of mussels in a broth and I went for the pastrami sandwich – it was really tender, thinly sliced pastrami with apple slaw, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on rye. It was yummy! The portion was big and the sandwich was rich – more than I’m used to eating, but I managed.

The view from the brewery was great.

View from Barley Brothers Brewery

View from Barley Brothers Brewery

After the big lunch, we went down to the rodeo grounds to scope out the area – we’ll be moving there on Monday. Then we went grocery shopping. Donna had quite a list of things she needed to prepare hors d’oeuvres for tomorrow’s Super Bowl game.

Today the temperature should be well into the 70s. We’ll get out and enjoy the nice weather.

More Number Crunching

I mentioned in my last post how cool the temperature was after a cold front blew across southern California and into Arizona. The thermometer hasn’t touched 60 since we arrived in Lake Havasu City. When we were in Jojoba Hills, we also had a cold spell. I put about 18 hours on the generator running the heat pumps for two days while we were there. I wondered at the time how efficient that was. Would I have been better off running the propane furnace?

Our Onan 7.5kW Quiet Diesel generator consumes an average of a little over half a gallon of diesel fuel per hour. Diesel fuel is currently down to about two bucks per gallon – so let’s assume $1.20/hour fuel cost for the generator. Of course the generator isn’t just supplying electricity for the heat pumps – it’s also powering the hot water heater, charging the batteries through the inverter, allowing the use of the induction cooktop and microwave oven and any other 120-volt AC appliances.

I did some research and found that our Suburban model SF42F propane furnace requires 40,000 BTU/hour input. One gallon of propane supplies about 91,000 BTU, so the furnace will burn about 0.44 gallons per hour. It will also draw about 11.5 amps of electricity from the battery bank. Propane fuel prices seem to vary widely. I haven’t bought propane since January of 2014 and we still have over a quarter tank in our 44-gallon propane tank. I was told that I could find propane for as little as $1.20/gallon if I searched around or I could have propane delivered to my rig for about $2.60/gallon. That’s a pretty wide spread. If I split the difference and call it $2.00/gallon, I would burn about $0.88/hour of propane. But, I would still have to run the generator sooner or later to recharge the battery bank.

The owner’s manual for our Onan generator recommends a minimum of two hours per month of running time with at least a 50% load. Generators like to be run – sitting for long periods without running them can result in corrosion of the electrical windings and components and degradation of the fuel system. Running the heat pumps with the generator provides a sufficient load to get it up to full operating temperature.

When we’re plugged into a full hook-up site, there’s no question about it – use the heat pumps. Electricity is generally included in a full hook-up site, unless we’re on a deeply discounted monthly rate where the electricity is metered.

After crunching these numbers, I think I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing. When we’re off the grid, I’ll use the generator and heat pumps as long as the ambient temperature is above 40 degrees. Below that temperature, the heat pumps become inefficient and we’ll switch to the propane furnace. Hopefully we won’t have to do that because one of our goals is to stay away from cold temperatures!

The lingering cold air mass made the past couple of days somewhat boring for me. I ventured out to pick up groceries at a Walmart Supercenter a few miles away on Monday. It was a cold ride on the scooter. Donna made salmon patties with canned wild Alaskan sockeye and served it topped with parsley mayo over a bed of mixed greens Monday night. It was delicious.

Salmon patties over mixed greens

Salmon patties over mixed greens

Donna has mostly been tied up at her computer writing articles for Quill.com. She has one more to complete before close of business on Friday. She takes a break for about an hour each day to go for a walk or run in the area.

I’ve been reading most of the time. The cool temperature combined with 15-20 mph wind is keeping me indoors. I take a walk around the park to stretch out and get some fresh air. On one of my walks, I saw a rare motorhome here in the park. It was a GMC motorhome. These were built by General Motors at the Pontiac truck and bus plant from 1973 to 1978. They’re unique motorhomes that were considered ultra-modern at the time. General Motors is the only US car company that built complete motorhomes. They were designed for comfortable travel as well as camping.

GMC motorhome here in the Havasu Falls RV Resort

GMC motorhome here in the Havasu Falls RV Resort

The chassis is a front wheel drive configuration. GM used the 455 cubic inch (7.5L) Oldsmobile engine from the Toronado coupled to the Turbo-Hydramatic 425 automatic transmission. They were built in 23-foot and 26-foot configurations. I read that 90% of the production was the 26- foot length.

GMC motorhome chassis - Wikipedia photo

GMC motorhome chassis – Wikipedia photo

These rigs were low to the ground due to the front wheel drive configuration and aerodynamic by motorhome standards. The example here in the RV park looks to be fully restored to showroom condition.

Today the weather should begin a warming trend. We should see temperatures in the 60s today, followed by the 70s this weekend. The warming trend is expected to continue next week with high temperatures reaching the 80s! We’ll get out and explore around the lake.

Idyllwild Day Trip

Sunday went pretty much as I expected. We played pickleball in the morning then I settled in to watch the NFL Conference Championship games. Denver’s defense had their way against the New England Patriots until late in the game. Then New England stepped on the gas and made it a close finish. Denver prevailed. The Arizona Cardinals versus the Carolina Panthers was a lopsided affair with Carolina blowing out Arizona.

Donna on the pickleball court

Donna on the pickleball court

Monday I started my day on the pickleball courts and played until 11:30am. Whew! Donna passed on pickleball and went out for a three-mile run then went to work on an article she’s writing for Quill. Although it was a nice day out with the temperature in the 70s with clear skies, I was worn out from three hours of pickleball so I read for a while and napped on the sofa. That’s about all I was good for on Monday.

I managed to fire up the Traeger wood pellet grill and roast a whole chicken for dinner. I seasoned the chicken with Sweet Rub O’Mine. Just like last time, the sugars in the rub caramelized and make the chicken look burnt in the photos. It wasn’t burnt – the skin was crispy and tasty with no burnt flavor at all.

Chicken roasted on the Traeger

Chicken roasted on the Traeger

Donna served it with a blend of brown and wild rices mixed with chopped pecans and dried berries. She also baked acorn squash with butter and maple syrup as another side.

Roasted chicken, acorn squash and rice

Roasted chicken, acorn squash and rice

Tuesday morning I slept in until 8:15 and still felt tired. I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Some of it is due to seasonal allergies starting to kick in – I know it’s still January but many plants are blooming around here. The other part is sore shoulders. My shoulders have been beat up – I’ve had multiple shoulder surgeries on both sides over the years and it’s catching up with me.

I decided to take a break from pickleball. We had a trip planned with our new friends, Ron and Marilyn Cross. We met Marilyn on the pickleball courts and she and Donna have become friends. It’s amazing how many new friends we find as we travel the country. They picked us up at 11am for a day trip up to Idyllwild.

We drove through Hemet and followed CA74 to CA243, a twisty two-lane country highway that climbs to the village of Idyllwild, 5,413 feet above sea level (map). Idyllwild is nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains which boast the second highest peak in southern California. San Jacinto Peak is 10,834 feet above sea level – Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernadino mountains is the highest at 11,503 feet above sea level. Many people don’t imagine mountain ranges and towering peaks when they think about southern California, but they’re here. Idyllwild caters to tourism based around hiking, camping and rock climbing. It doesn’t have any ski areas although it does get its share of snow. If you follow CA74 past the CA243 turn off, you’ll find yourself in the desert at Palm Springs – only an hour away!

Idyllwild Ranger station - San Bernadino National Forest

Idyllwild Ranger station – San Bernadino National Forest – snow in the background

We walked through town with Ron and Marilyn and their dog, a long haired Vizsla named Callie. Then we came back to the car which was parked in front of the Lumber Mill Bar and Grill. Ron and Marilyn said this place had the best burgers around. We found about a dozen specialty burger choices on the menu. I went for a mushroom burger with grilled onions, Donna had the bison burger, Marilyn had the veggie burger and Ron had a bacon cheeseburger. They were definitely good burgers.

Lumber Mill Bar and Grill

Lumber Mill Bar and Grill

When we were leaving, I saw an interesting vehicle parked out front. It was Pinzgauer high-mobility all-terrain vehicle. These vehicles were originally made by Steyr-Diamler-Puch in Graz, Austria. It was a popular military vehicle in Europe. Steyr-Diamler-Puch produced these vehicles in four-wheel and six-wheel drive configurations from 1971 to 2000 when the rights were ultimately sold to the UK firm BAE. Nowadays, many of the older Pinzgauers are in private hands and they can be found anywhere in the world.

Pinzgauer high-mobility all-terrain vehicle

Pinzgauer high-mobility all-terrain vehicle

This one appears to be a first generation vehicle most likely powered by an inline air-cooled four-cylinder engine.

We left Idyllwild with the intention of finding Lake Hemet. First we made a wrong turn and went up Saunders Meadow Road. We quickly decided it was a mistake and Ron pulled over at a turnout. The view was spectacular so we got out. We then found a wide, well-defined hiking trail and took a short hike with their dog, Callie, among the ponderosa pines and manzanita trees.

Donna, Ron and Marilyn on the trail we found by accident - note snow on peak in the baclground

Donna, Ron and Marilyn on the trail we found by accident – note snow on peaks in the baclground

We continued on our way and headed east on CA74 – also known as the Pines to Palms highway. About four miles down CA74, we found the lake after one more missed turn – it was obscured by a construction zone.

Lake Hemet

Lake Hemet

We saw an immature bald eagle flying across the lake while Callie romped and swam in the water. As is the case with most western lakes and reservoirs, the water level is low. Recent rainfall and snow pack will undoubtedly help this situation, but years of drought aren’t erased by one wet season.

The heavy rainfall in the last month caused erosion along some of the banks of the lake. Marilyn and Donna sat on a bench they literally had to jump up on. The erosion of the soil under the bench left it sitting high above ground level. They looked like two little kids on a park bench with their legs dangling.

Legs dangling from a high bench

Legs dangling from a high bench

We made it back to Golden Palms RV Resort just in time to hit the farmers’ market before it shut down at 4pm. We picked up a few items before we walked back to our coach.

We were told about a pizza place that had good pizza and had a Tuesday special – buy one, get one free! I phoned in a take-out order and rode the scooter to Stadium Pizza in a small industrial park about four miles away. The parking lot was full and there was a line of people out the front door! I found a place to park the scooter and saw the line had the door blocked and the place was jam-packed. I asked people in line if I had to wait in line if I was picking up a take-out order I already placed. They said I probably needed to wait. Then one of them said I should go inside and try to pick up my order.

I wiggled my way inside and found a guy that looked like the manager walking behind the counter. I told him I phoned my order in and asked if I could pick it up or should I stand in the long line. He said, “We don’t have a drive through – you need to get in line.” I said “Really? I wasn’t asking for a drive through, but it doesn’t make sense to me to phone an order in and stand in line while other people are placing orders and waiting for tables while my pizza gets cold.” He asked for my name and phone number and went to the back and came out with the pizzas. What he needs to do is organize his counter – one line to place orders and another line to pick up orders. Simple. The pizza WAS good. Really good.

Today the only thing on my schedule is pickleball. Then I have no further plan.

Successful Surgery

I haven’t posted for a few days as I’ve been off my usual routine this week. I didn’t sleep well Sunday night. I knew I had to be up early – I had my alarm set for 4:15am. Usually, when I need to be up early, I have an internal clock that wakes me up just before the alarm. In this case, I was restless all night and I was awake at 3am. I stayed in bed and tried to sleep, but got up at 4am and shut off the alarm.

I was up early to take my step-dad to the hospital. We had Ken’s car all weekend so I could drive him to the hospital for surgery to correct an abdominal aorta aneurysm and not have to scooter over to his place at dark-thirty. I told Ken I would be there by 5:15am. I showed up at 5:05am and we were on our way by 5:10am.

I figured the drive to Inland Valley Medical Center would take at least 30 minutes. In the early morning hours of Martin Luther King day, there was very little traffic and we made it in 25 minutes. We checked in at the ER as instructed and sat and waited for about half an hour. Then an administrator called out a name and Ken raised his hand. She started to tell us where we needed to go and Ken asked about his co-pay. He was told during the pre-op appointment that he would have a co-pay and it had to be paid in full before the surgery. The woman said she didn’t know about the co-pay and took us to an office. She started looking at files on her computer, then asked Ken if he knew the amount of the co-pay. Ken told her the amount and she said she didn’t see any notes for it, but would take the payment. I saw the file she was looking at – it wasn’t Ken’s file. She was about to apply his co-payment to someone else’s case.

We got that straightened out and walked to the surgery center. Ken’s 84 years old and never had a surgery before – and he had never spent the night in a hospital before. After a short wait, a nurse came and led him back to the pre-operation preparation area. I joined Ken there after a few minutes. I’ve been through several surgeries and I tried to reassure him and explain to him what they were doing. It was almost 8:30am by the time they were ready to wheel him into the operating room (OR). I told him he would be going to sleep in a few minutes. He looked at the nurse and said, “I’m wide awake now, I don’t think I can sleep.” I told him, “Trust me, you’ll be asleep in a few minutes.”

Before they took him away, the surgeon told me there was maybe a 1% chance that he would have to perform open surgery. The plan was to insert a stent through the femoral artery into his aorta and avoid open surgery. The surgeon said I should stick around until he was out of the OR. This made me wary – if they had to perform open surgery, I wasn’t sure if it would be survivable for someone Ken’s age and condition.

I read a book in the waiting room. I went to the cafeteria for breakfast. Then I came back and read some more. At 10:30am, the surgeon came out and told me everything was fine. He showed me a CT-scan image taken with contrast in the bloodstream. It showed blood flowing through the stent with no leakage into the aneurysm. Perfect. He said there was a possibility Ken would be discharged the next day, but more likely it would be Wednesday.

About an hour later, I was able to visit Ken in the recovery room. I said, “Well, you made it through.” He said, “I don’t think I did too well.” I told him the surgeon said everything went really well and he was pleased with the outcome. Ken said, “But I was thrashing about and trying to stand up in bed.” I laughed and told him that didn’t happen – it was a hallucination brought on by the anesthesia. He seemed really confused by that. Before I left, I told him I would call him the following day to check on him. The nurse told me he would be in room ICU13.

Monday night I was really tired and went to bed at 9pm. I slept like a rock. I was up early and got out of bed at 6am. I read for awhile then had breakfast when Donna got up.

Sunrise Tuesday morning

Sunrise Tuesday morning

We hit the pickleball courts. Here at Golden Village Palms RV Resort, they take pickleball seriously and start play at 8am. I knew Ken usually likes to sleep in, so I played pickleball until 11am, then I called the hospital. It took four phone calls and lots of runaround before I was able to talk to Ken. He wasn’t in ICU13 like they told me – he was in ICU2.

Ken told me that when the doctor made his rounds earlier, he said Ken would be discharged after lunch! He said I should wait until he called me before heading to hospital because it might take a couple of hours. I received a phone call around 2pm from the nurse. He said he had trouble getting hold of me – they had written my phone number down incorrectly. Luckily Ken had my number on a note in his coat pocket which he eventually found. The nurse said I should plan to pick Ken up at 4pm.

Donna and I drove to the hospital and picked Ken up. He was moving a little slow but seemed fine. On the way to his house, I stopped at Rite-Aid to fill a pain prescription. That’s when trouble started. The pain med – Norco – is a class two controlled substance. Rite-Aid wouldn’t fill the prescription because the doctor didn’t hand write the date – it was pre-printed on the prescription form. They said the prescription had to be hand signed and hand dated. They suggested using a different pain med. I wasn’t going to do that without talking to the surgeon. It turned out he was in surgery at the time. I called his office and they told me they would page him and he could call Rite-Aid. They expected him to be out of surgery within half an hour.

We drove Ken home and told him he should kick back and relax while I worked out the prescription issue. Ken’s a pretty tough guy. He made a pot of coffee and turned on the television. We planned for Donna to spend the night at Ken’s house so she could prepare meals for him. He wouldn’t have it. Like I said, he’s a tough guy. Ken served in the Marine Corps and fought at the battle of Chosin in Korea. He’s been through very hard times in his life.

I went back to Rite-Aid to see if they heard from the surgeon. He hadn’t called and by now it was after 5pm. I called his office again but it was closed – I got through to his answering service. They paged him again and he called me. He said I should just buy extra strength Tylenol. He said Ken didn’t take much in the way of pain medication all day and he thought Tylenol would work fine. I bought the Tylenol and went back to Ken’s place. We sat for a while before he shooed us off. He’s used to living alone and he wanted us to go home and come back on Wednesday.

It was well after 6pm by the time we got home. Donna made oven-fried chicken that had soaked overnight in buttermilk and chives. This recipe was new and it was very tasty. The chicken was crispy, flavorful and moist. She also prepared buttered green beans and black rice with sweet potatoes, ginger and scallions.

Pan fried chicken

Oven-fried chicken

Wednesday morning we were back on the pickleball courts. I called to check on Ken at 11am. He seemed anxious to have his car back in his garage. I told him I would make a quick run for groceries, then go to his place.

He seemed to be getting around fine when I arrived. He said he had some aches and pains and he didn’t know why. I told him he was only on his second day after surgery. Aches and pains are to be expected. He said he planned to go to the clubhouse and play cards on Thursday. He usually plays on Tuesdays and Thursdays. His neighbor, Ray, would walk with him to the clubhouse. He said he thought the walk would be good for him.

I rode the scooter back home and left Ken’s car in his garage. Donna adapted a chicken stir-fry recipe and made beef & broccoli stir-fry with flank steak for dinner. It was delicious!

Flank steak beef stir-fry

Flank steak beef stir-fry

We played pickleball again this morning – I played for three hours. I’ll call Ken later, after his card game to see how he’s doing. I told him we were paid up here until Saturday, but we can extend if he feels like he might want some help. That’s the nice thing about being mobile and full-timing. We don’t really have to be anywhere. At a time like this, if we lived in a sticks-and-bricks house, I would have flown out here to help Ken. Then I would sleep on his sofa or get a hotel room. But I didn’t have to do that. We were able to move our living quarters to his area and we can remain here if he needs us.

It’s a beautiful day today. The temperature is in the mid 70s with only a few high clouds. The snow we can see on Mount San Jacinto and up in Big Bear is melting from the mountain tops.

Snow on the mountains

Snow on the mountains

The nice weather should hold up through the weekend. We’ll decide tomorrow if we’ll stay here or move on.

Heat – Diesel or Propane?

I mentioned in my last post how cold it was at Jojoba Hills SKP RV Resort. Friday’s high temperature was in the low 50s. After a couple of hours on the pickleball courts in the morning, we stayed indoors for the rest of the day.

Our five dollar per night boondocking spot wasn’t as economical as I hoped it would be. With the cold weather, I had the generator running all day with the heat pumps on. I could have shut down the generator and fired up the propane furnace for heat – I’m not sure which is more economical. The generator burns roughly half a gallon of diesel fuel per hour. Diesel fuel is around two dollars per gallon now. Propane is slightly higher than that but I don’t know the burn rate of our furnace. I ended up with about 18 hours of generator run time over the two days we were there.

Donna prepared a pork tenderloin with pomegranate glaze for dinner Friday night. So yummy!

Pork tenderloin with pomegranate glaze

Pork tenderloin with pomegranate glaze

We pulled out of Jojoba Hills around 11:20am Saturday morning. Our route took us up CR3 to Hemet. I’ve driven this road before in the opposite direction. I remembered some tight twisty sections, but I didn’t remember it being 15 miles of twisty, narrow highway. There wasn’t much traffic but a couple of times, I had cars lining up behind me. What the drivers of cars may not realize is how much I need to slow down for tight turns. They also probably don’t know how difficult it may be for me to pull over on a narrow road to let them pass. I need to see a wide enough shoulder and judge whether it is smooth enough to drive on and solid enough to support our weight. I usually have to make that decision in a matter of a few seconds. Twice I found wide spots on the shoulder where I could let the cars pass.

We’re currently at the Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet California (map). We’ve stayed here once before when it was much warmer. We have a back-in site that’s barely wide enough for our coach with three slides and our trailer. When I backed the trailer into our site we had a number of spectators. About a half dozen people across the street and another three or four people down from our site all stood by and watched. It must have been disappointing for them as I didn’t hit anything and Donna gave excellent guidance. We dropped the trailer without any drama at all.

Once we were set up, I scootered about 15 miles to my step-dad, Ken Keller’s house. I left the scooter in his garage and picked up his car. I’ll drive over there at dark-thirty on Monday to take him to the hospital. He has a surgery scheduled and I need to have him at the hospital before 6am.

Ken is 84 years old. He’s never had surgery and never spent the night in a hospital before. One of the nice things about our nomadic lifestyle is the ability to visit family as we travel about. In this case, it enables us to set up near Ken and assist him. The hospital requires an adult caretaker to drive him home (when he’s able to go home) and stay with him for 24 hours. I’ve booked a week here. I’m hoping that’s sufficient time for him to get back on his feet.

When I returned, I watched the NFL playoffs. The Cardinals won a thriller over Green Bay. Donna played pickleball in the afternoon. Then she made turkey and black bean chili for dinner. A simple and delicious meal!

Turkey burger chili with cheddar and cilantro

Turkey chili with cheddar and cilantro

We’ll head over to the pickleball courts this morning, then I’ll kick back and watch more NFL playoff games.

Gray Skies at Jojoba Hills

On Wednesday morning, our last full day in San Diego, Donna joined her friend Johanna for a bike ride up to the Torrey Pines Glider Port. While she was out, I cleaned our site, packed the awning mat and folded the chairs. I cleaned the Traeger wood pellet fired grill. I checked our tire pressures – something I always do before we travel. When Donna came home from her ride, I took her bike to the trailer and hung it up.

Our friends Tom and Kris Downey (Open Road 365) generously offered the use of their Chevy Equinox to haul things out to the trailer. But before I started hauling stuff to the trailer, I had to scooter to Pacific Beach to CVS Pharmacy. During my last check-up before Christmas, Dr. Ryan put me on a new prescription. It’s a daily medication. I picked up the initial 30-day supply at CVS, then added the medication to my CVS-Caremark mail-order plan. I received an e-mail Tuesday from CVS-Caremark telling me they would fill the mail-order prescription with a 90-day supply in three to five days.

We’ll be bouncing around for a few weeks and I don’t think I’ll have mail forwarded until the middle of February. I’ll run out of my meds before then. I told the woman at the pharmacy about my dilemma. I was certain the insurance wouldn’t cover another 30-day supply when they just approved a 90-day supply. She looked up the out-of-pocket price for 30 capsules. It was $142. She had my contact info and said she would talk to my insurance company and call me later. She called me about half an hour later and said she had it worked out. She asked the insurance company for a vacation waiver to refill the prescription as my meds wouldn’t catch up with me in time. They approved it! When I went back to CVS and picked up the prescription there was no co-pay – it cost me zero instead of $142.

With the dilemma solved, I went to Tom and Kris’ site to borrow their car. I made two trips to the trailer and had everything except for the Traeger packed – it’s too bulky to put into the car. I returned the car, then I walked the Traeger out to the trailer and it was job done.

Just before sundown, our friend Hans Kohls (Metamorphosis Road) stopped by. He told us Lisa had a cold and didn’t want to infect anybody so she stayed home while he came by to bid us farewell. Hans brought a cold bottle of IPA from Green Flash Brewing. It was billed as a tropical fruit style. It tasted more citrus to me than anything tropical. The hops were typical IPA – I think it was Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe hops. I opened a bomber bottle of a limited release ale from Lagunitas called Hairy Eyeball. This was a malty, almost sweet beer with 9.1% ABV and 56 IBUs. It was tasty – Donna even liked it, but I think one is my limit on this beer.

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball

Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball

With the gear already stowed in the cargo trailer, I had a leisurely morning on Thursday prepping to leave. I hooked the water hose I use for flushing to the flushing valve for the black water tank and dumped it. While it was flushing, Ray stopped by and started talking to me. I shut the dump valve on the black tank and opened the gray water tank as Tom arrived and joined the conversation. The gray tank took about six minutes to empty – then I realized I hadn’t shut off the water supply to the black tank flushing valve. I was filling the black tank with water while we talked! I ran over to the spigot and shut it off. We have a large black tank – 89 gallons, so there’s no way I could overfill it in six minutes. But I was a little flustered none the less. Getting distracted while performing a chore like that can have disastrous results.

We fired up the Cummins ISL diesel at 11:15am. When we were lining up to hook up the trailer, I couldn’t hear anything Donna was saying over the handheld Cobra CB radio. I checked the radio and it indicated low battery. Donna could hear me – there was enough battery power to receive a signal but it takes more power to transmit. There wasn’t enough current to transmit so I couldn’t hear her. The radio takes seven AA batteries and they lasted for about two years. Not bad.

We drove north on I-15 to Temecula and on to the Jojoba Hills SKP park near Aguanga (map). I told Tom it takes about an hour to get to Temecula. I was right – we got to Temecula in about an hour, but I didn’t account for the stoplight-to-stoplight drive through Temecula and the 13-mile drive down CA79 to get to the RV park. It was about an hour and half total time.

We checked in to the boondocking area – no hook-ups for five dollars a night. We’ll spend two nights here before we move on to the Golden Palms RV Resort in Hemet, about 30 miles from here.

Setting up in a dry camping area is quick and easy. I pushed a button to extend the jacks and level the coach. Then I worked three switches to extend the slide-outs. Job done. Donna loves this place. It’s one of the cleanest and well laid out parks in a beautiful setting. The amenities are great. I gave a little background on this park in this post.

It was cold Friday morning. The temperature was in the 40s. We’re a little more than 2,000 feet above sea level here. Around 9am, we braved the cold and went to the outdoor pickleball courts. We had fun and played for two hours before retreating to the coach. From the boondocking area, it’s a bit of a hike to the pickleball courts – uphill all the way. The trail is nice though and a new waterfall was added since our last stay here.

The trail heading back to our coach

The trail heading back to our coach

Our boondocking site hidden among the trees

Our boondocking site hidden among the trees

The new waterfall

The new waterfall

Another view of the upper part of the 'fall

Another view of the upper part of the ‘falls

We spent the rest of the afternoon with the generator running and the heat pumps on. The skies are overcast and the temperature stayed in the mid-50s. Tomorrow we’ll move on and hopefully find warmer weather.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!